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Hawkins\Brown and SHL win £80m Bristol Uni library contest

Bristol University
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A team featuring Hawkins\Brown and Copenhagen-based Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects (SHL) has won the University of Bristol’s competition for a new £80 million central library

The victorious team – which also includes BuroHappold – was chosen ahead of rival bids by AHMM, Wilkinson Eyre Architects, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, and Atkins with Snøhetta to win the £2.25 million commission.

The project, part of a large-scale overhaul of Bristol’s Clifton Campus, will deliver a landmark 11,000m² home for the university’s library, which is currently spread across nine separate locations.

It will be accompanied by a remodelling of public realm around the nearby busy Tyndall Avenue thoroughfare, and the construction of a student resource hub. The scheme is expected to complete in 2021.

Hawkins\Brown partner Adam Cossey said: ‘We are delighted to be partnering with Schmidt Hammer Lassen and BuroHappold to design this exciting new library project.

‘The library has the potential to have a catalytic effect on the university’s wider plan to revitalise the Clifton Campus, with public elements that will provide a space for knowledge and social exchange between the university community and the wider public.’

The appointment comes six years after the Danish practice completed a new £57 million library for the University of Aberdeen.

SHL founding partner Morten Schmidt said: ‘Libraries make a difference in people’s lives. Not only for scholars, researchers and students, but for all citizens. They bring people and communities together – and they release potential.

‘This building will be a beacon of knowledge and it will play a vital part in the life and experience of the University of Bristol and the city of Bristol itself. It will be a sustainable, contemporary, welcoming, and fun place to be – while remaining in harmony with the rich traditions and history of its surroundings.’

Founded in 1876, the University of Bristol hosts around 6,000 staff and 22,000 students and is the largest independent employer in the West of England city. The university is centred on a large campus in Clifton which features landmark buildings designed by Charles Hansom, George Oatley, Ralph Brentnall and Charles Dyer.

The university is developing a £300 million Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus focusing on digital technologies such as biotechnology, energy, engineering, computer sciences, cybersecurity and analytics. In July, The Times reported that hedge-fund manager Hugh Sloane had donated £10 million towards the 70ha project.

University of Bristol vice-chancellor and president Hugh Brady said: ‘The new state-of-the-art library will be an integral part of the academic experience of so many of our students and staff – especially, but not exclusively, in the humanities and social sciences.

‘We are excited to be working with architects who understand the importance of creating libraries which delight and inspire innovation and discovery. Although the design plans are in their infancy, it is our ambition to work in partnership with the design team to deliver a welcoming building with incredible natural light and views, a rich resource of texts and special collections, excellent digital infrastructure and technology, and a stimulating and nurturing learning environment.’

The winning team will now draw up a detailed design for the library in consultation with the public, future users and other stakeholders.

The studios’ winning design – which has yet to be revealed – will ‘integrate’ with the hilltop campus’ existing built environment, capitalize on its views over the surrounding city and extend landscaping around the historic Royal Fort Garden.

New exhibition spaces, reading rooms and a public café are expected to be included in the new structure along with a cultural collections centre featuring historic books, art and theatre artefacts.


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